Middle, High School and Post-Secondary Educators Make Music through STEM

This summer educators in Florida had a unique opportunity to strum and fine-tune their STEM skills.
FLATE, partnered with the National STEM Guitar Project to host its first Guitar Building workshop for middle, high school and post-secondary educators at Erwin Technical Institute in Tampa and Hillsborough Community College in Brandon. The workshop was held Aug. 4-8 and was keyed in to present and teach participants hands-on, applied learning techniques designed to engage and spark interest and excitement for STEM. The National STEM Guitar Project, in partnership with NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Centers with funding provided through a grant from NSF, hosts innovative Guitar Building Institutes around the United States.  The workshop was the ONLY site in the Southeast to host this intense and innovative electric guitar design/build project.

Thomas Singer, principal investigator with STEM Guitar Project indicates “the faculty workshop is one way
to rebuild the nation’s STEM workforce — beginning with teachers.” The goal of the STEM Guitar Building Institute is to showcase a new way to present learning for students with applied methods. “The Guitar STEM workshop taught teachers how to incorporate math and science skills into their classrooms using a hands-on practical model” said Desh Bagley, outreach manager for FLATE. Physics principles such as harmonics and tension were clearly demonstrated while assembling the guitar. Additionally teachers used algebraic and logarithmic equations to calculate distances of the fret dot on the fret board of a guitar and for an in-depth “understanding of what is required in a manufacturing environment.” Jim Cavanaugh, president of Cavanaugh Company in Sarasota, FL, also addressed the teachers about some of the technologies and science involved in making world class guitars/strings at his high-tech manufacturing facility in Sarasota.

On the last day of the Guitar Building Institute, called “Rock Star Friday,” a guitar-driven event where the
newly built, customized guitars were showcased and the educators celebrated. At the end of five day workshop, teachers will be equipped to pass on energy, interest and new concepts to their students further motivating their students to learn about the STEM behind the music, technology, manufacturing and design. “Participants left this weeklong experience with their custom-made guitars, curriculum modules with short term assessments that can be immediately integrated into the faculty team school curriculum” said Danielly Orozco, FLATE’s curriculum coordinator. 

Educators who applied and were selected received free tuition and stipend to participate in the five-day
Guitar Building Institutes. They begin with an online webinar two months prior to their workshop so they can arrive ready to start working.  After completion, all workshop attendees developed project based STEM lessons to deliver in their own classes and share with others. “Teachers were enlightened about the skills needed for technicians, machinists, and quality control engineers in manufacturing industries. The skills taught during the workshop correlate with statewide manufacturers’ needs” said Bagley.  

Over the initial four year NSF grant period, the STEM Guitar Project has over delivered its objectives by recruiting 235 STEM faculty members to participate in Guitar Building Workshops around the country with an additional 335 faculty impacted via national education conferences.  Thus far, this effort is impacting over 4600 students nationally as a result of faculty members adopting or adapting the curriculum developed through the project. 

For more information on the Workshop, contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org /813.259.6578, or visit www.fl-ate.org. For information on STEM Guitar Building Institute visit www.guitarbuilding.org

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